The Need for Enlightenment

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Wayfarer
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The Need for Enlightenment

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:53 am

There are many debates about whether Buddhism is really a religion, or a philosophy; or perhaps that 'dharma' has a different meaning to 'religion' (which I think is true); and so on. Religion after all casts many shadows, even more so in the modern technological age. Then there are many who describe themselves as 'spiritual but not religious', of which I am possibly one.

There are many grey areas in this question and I'm not trying to solve it. But one thing that does occur to me is this: that the very sense of the need for enlightenment is a religious type of sense. In other words, the awareness that 'life is dukkha' and the realisation of the kind of change that is needed for that to change, is part of a religious type of attitude.

There's a blog post about a 19th Century philosopher named Royce, who put it like this:
1. Concern for Salvation as Essential to Religion. It is very difficult to define religion, in the sense of setting forth necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of the term, but I agree with Royce's view that an essential characteristic of anything worth calling religion is a concern for the salvation of man. (The Sources of Religious Insight, Charles Scribner and Sons, 1912, p. 8) Religious objects are those that help show the way to salvation. The central postulate of religion is that "man needs to be saved." (8-9) Saved from what? ". . . from some vast and universal burden, of imperfection, of unreasonableness, of evil, of misery, of fate, of unworthiness, or of sin." (8) In an earlier post on Simone Weil I spoke of generic wretchedness. [Buddhists would say dukkha and re-birth.] It is that which we need salvation from.

2. The Need for Salvation. "Man is an infinitely needy creature." But the need for salvation, for those who feel it, is paramount among human needs. The need for salvation depends on two simpler ideas:

a) There is a paramount end or aim of human life relative to which other aims are vain.

b) Man as he now is, or naturally is, is in danger of missing his highest aim, his highest good.

To hold that man needs salvation is to hold both of (a) and (b). I would put it like this. The religious person perceives our present life, or our natural life, as radically deficient, deficient from the root (radix) up, as fundamentally unsatisfactory; he feels it to be, not a mere condition, but a predicament; it strikes him as vain or empty if taken as an end in itself; he sees himself as homo viator, as a wayfarer (!) or pilgrim treading a via dolorosa through a vale that cannot possibly be a final and fitting resting place; he senses or glimpses from time to time the possibility of a Higher Life; he feels himself in danger of missing out on this Higher Life of true happiness. If this doesn't strike a chord in you, then I suggest you do not have a religious disposition. Some people don't, and it cannot be helped. One cannot discuss religion with them, for it cannot be real to them. It is not, for them, what William James in "The Will to Believe" calls a "living option," let alone a "forced" or "momentous" one.

3. Religious Insight. Royce defines religious insight as ". . . insight into the need and into the way of salvation." No one can take religion seriously who has not felt the need for salvation. But we need religious insight to show that we really need it, and to show the way to it.

4. Royce's Question. He asks: What are the sources of religious insight? What are the sources of insight into the need and into the way of salvation? Many will point to divine revelation through a scripture or through a church as the principal source of religious insight.
From here.

Now, change the terminology a little - substitute 'enlightenment' for 'salvation', and mention 'meditation' in the section on 'insight' - and this passage rings true for me - even more so now, after many years of meditation and study.

But a point I notice is that there's a lot of people that it won't mean anything to; they don't feel the absence of that insight. They don't even know they don't know!
As long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible ...we have no business here and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?"... The only possible answer is "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don't believe you are sick, there can be no cure.
~Vladimir Solovyov
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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PuerAzaelis
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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by PuerAzaelis » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:01 am

:applause:

Royce, Solovyov, bravo. I predict a dozen pages of polemics describing how Buddhism is different from Platonism before someone says something relevant ...
Generally, enjoyment of speech is the gateway to poor [results]. So it becomes the foundation for generating all negative emotional states. Jampel Pawo, The Certainty of the Diamond Mind

For posts from this user, see Karma Dondrup Tashi account.

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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:22 am

I’m an eclectic. For some reason, I am strongly drawn to Platonism. I feel like I might have lived somewhere along the Silk Road in some previous life, where these traditions met and mingled. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked Zen Catholics, like Ama Samy and the like.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by aflatun » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:23 am

PuerAzaelis wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:01 am
:applause:

Royce, Solovyov, bravo. I predict a dozen pages of polemics describing how Buddhism is different from Platonism before someone says something relevant ...
Excellent post as always :rolling: :twothumbsup:
Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:22 am
I’m an eclectic.
Me too.
For some reason, I am strongly drawn to Platonism.
Me too again, hence my screen name, though my Plato has been sublated into Buddha and Nagarjuna, and I now see those blasted Forms as empty :). Nevertheless, I think your draw is a good thing, and great post!
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Wayfarer
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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:02 am

Aha! Arabic for Plato! Never would have guessed that, if you hadn't mentioned it.

Myself, I never had an education in 'the Classics'. I guess if I'd gone to a Catholic school, I would have had it beaten into me with a cane (they used to do that, when I went to school), and then I would simply have rebelled against it and would probably hate the subject. But having come to it later in life, I've developed a real appreciation for Western philosophy (although not modern Western philosophy, with some exceptions). I don't see it at all as conflicting with Buddhism - really they're separate domains of discourse, and I appreciate each in their own terms.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by CedarTree » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:36 pm

PuerAzaelis wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:01 am
:applause:

Royce, Solovyov, bravo. I predict a dozen pages of polemics describing how Buddhism is different from Platonism before someone says something relevant ...
I love your posts. Lol always look for them now.
aflatun wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:23 am
PuerAzaelis wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:01 am
:applause:

Royce, Solovyov, bravo. I predict a dozen pages of polemics describing how Buddhism is different from Platonism before someone says something relevant ...
Excellent post as always :rolling: :twothumbsup:
Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:22 am
I’m an eclectic.
Me too.
For some reason, I am strongly drawn to Platonism.
Me too again, hence my screen name, though my Plato has been sublated into Buddha and Nagarjuna, and I now see those blasted Forms as empty :).

Nevertheless, I think your draw is a good thing, and great post!

You have some of the best quotes in your signature. Period. :anjali:

Practice, Practice, Practice

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aflatun
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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by aflatun » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:17 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:02 am
Aha! Arabic for Plato! Never would have guessed that, if you hadn't mentioned it.
I almost made it "aflatun al ilahi" or "the divine plato," but that would have been pushing it :tongue:
Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:02 am
Myself, I never had an education in 'the Classics'. I guess if I'd gone to a Catholic school, I would have had it beaten into me with a cane (they used to do that, when I went to school), and then I would simply have rebelled against it and would probably hate the subject. But having come to it later in life, I've developed a real appreciation for Western philosophy (although not modern Western philosophy, with some exceptions). I don't see it at all as conflicting with Buddhism - really they're separate domains of discourse, and I appreciate each in their own terms.
Plato was probably the first "philosopher" that got into my head (more specifically 'religious' thinkers had already done that years before) and so I'll always have a soft spot for Platonism. I was entirely obsessed with platonic-aristotelean tradition for a long time, especially plotinus. I guess in a buddhist framework plato and plotinus could never be more than wise puthujjanas, at best like the Buddha's early teachers (Alara Kalama, Uddaka Rāmaputta) with 'little dust in their eyes.'

I am on the same page as you with respect to the appreciation, its all great material, and I think its pretty clear they weren't "philosophers" like modern professors but more like sages and practitioners on a path of virtue, renunciation, jhanic like practice, etc, and driven by a need to know. That's stating it too lightly! More like a need for omniscience. I'm guessing you've read Pierre Hadot?

Regarding this need for omniscience: Another really obscure name I'd mention is Philip Merlan: Brilliant classics scholar who did some amazing work on the more "mystical" dimensions of greek thought and (IMO) made great strides in dismantling the image many people have of them as dry, logic chopping professorial types.

Here is a snippet from my favorite work by him: Monopsychism Mysticism Metaconsciousness: Problems of the Soul in the Neoaristotelian and Neoplatonic Tradition
HISTORICALLY and systematically Alexander's doctrine of the possibility and desirability of the transformation of human intelligence by and into the productive intelligence with this doctrine's religious overtones is of great interest. Before us we have the germs of what the Middle Ages had known as the problem of the unio, conjunctio, continuatio, connexio, or cohaerentia of the intellectus abstractus (Greek won't paste!;) or intellectus activus (agens), i.e. the nous poiêtikos"; with that intellectus which, in some sense of the word, depending on which aspect (phase) of the human intellect we have in mind and what terms we decide to use for these several aspects, can be called human intellectus properly so called, whether to this term human intelligence we apply the term possible, potential, material, acquired, etc. and in which unio man's beatitude is supposed to consist. The best known documents dealing with this problem are a writing by Ibn Bagga and four by Averroes. This union is, if we may say so, the neo- Aristotelian counterpart of the unio mystica usually so called. In this union the individual is absorbed into the universal, i.e. the supra- personal, and this supra-personal is at the same time characterized as the divine.

In other words, we can speak of an Aristoteles mysticus (see below) and of an Alexander mysticus. On the other hand, for their kind of mysticism we can perhaps use the formula 'rationalistic' mysticism.

Now the term 'rationalist' mysticism has been used, e.g. by Madkour to describe the mysticism of al-Farabi as distinct from that of the Sufis in that the former does not imply, while the latter does, that the climactic moment of man's life (ecstasy in some sense of the word) consists in a kind of leap and reversal of the 'natural' cognitive process, so that according to the former ecstasy is a condition of reason in its perfection. With Madkour agrees Gardet who also classifies Avicenna's mysticism as 'rational' in this sense. However, I use the term 'rationalistic mysticism' in a somewhat different sense. I mean the term to indicate that the god with whom we are united in ecstasy is not the God-above-thinking-and-being, but rather one who is thought-thinking-itself. In other words, anticipating later discussions, in Averroes and Ibn Bagga the unio mystica takes place with what Plotinus would call the second god. Quite obviously the absorption into this kind of god is different from the absorption into the ineffable one. What is common to both kinds of ecstasy is loss of personality. But in lieu of the cloud of unknowing, we have in rationalistic mysticism the flood of sheer light. In rationalistic mysticism we have absolute transparency, or, as we could also say, self-knowledge. In an ordinary act of knowledge the object of knowledge is something opaque which knowledge illuminates and makes visible. But in the ecstatic act of knowledge nothing opaque is left, because what is known is identical with what knows.
pg. 18-21

Who wouldn't be familiar with the opening passage of Aristotle's Metaphysics? Starting from the premise that to know is what all men are striving after, Aristotle step by step shows what kind of knowledge will satisfy that striving. In other words, Aristotle clarifies only what obviously everybody instinctively desires. And it turns out that the knowledge men are after is wisdom, i.e. the knowledge of first principles and causes - small wonder, then, Aristotle continues, that many would be of the opinion that it is a kind of knowledge which only a god could possess, whereas man should not aspire to it. But this is wrong, says Aristotle. The knowledge man is and should be after (wisdom) is divine indeed and it is so in a double sense: its object matter is god, because as everybody knows god is a principal cause, and obviously it is the knowledge which god possesses, and divine in this sense. In short: man desires the knowledge of god...

As is well known, Aristotle proceeds to deduce these qualities from what men conceive the wise man to be. And the first quality which the wise man is supposed to exhibit is that he knows everything in the way in which omniscience is possible...

Omniscience - this is the ultimate goal of man's search. It is indeed obvious that the knowledge sought after is divine knowledge. For god most certainly is omniscient, in the sense in which omniscience is possible at all. Thus to know god and to possess divine omniscience coincide. It is customary to take these words lightly. It seems impossible that Aristotle should actually have expected man ever to become omniscient. But do we have the right to tone his words down?

I don't think so. If we remember the endless discussions concerning the manner of divine omniscience (and, for that matter, the manner of divine providence) we ought to realize that Aristotle meant literally what he said: there is a kind of knowledge which is in some way all- comprehensive. God possesses it - man should try to acquire it. Only when he succeeds, his longing to know will be satisfied. Man desires and is able to divinize himself.
pg 21-22

Sorry for the rabbit trail. But yes, I identify with your OP and the need for enlightenment!
Last edited by aflatun on Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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aflatun
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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by aflatun » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:40 pm

CedarTree wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:36 pm

You have some of the best quotes in your signature. Period. :anjali:
Thanks CedarTree, and you have the best threads. I seriously appreciate the emphasis on personal experience and practice, sorry I don't participate as much as I should!
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

User avatar
CedarTree
Posts: 556
Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 10:13 pm

Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by CedarTree » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:50 pm

aflatun wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:40 pm
CedarTree wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:36 pm

You have some of the best quotes in your signature. Period. :anjali:
Thanks CedarTree, and you have the best threads. I seriously appreciate the emphasis on personal experience and practice, sorry I don't participate as much as I should!
Totally okay you keep being you.

This forum has a view personalities that make all the difference. They are widely different personalities hah but all the same they make this something special. You are one of them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

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Wayfarer
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Re: The Need for Enlightenment

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:55 pm

Aflatun wrote:Sorry for the rabbit trail.
Hey no apologies needed! Glad to find a kindred spirit, and I find them very interesting readings.

I am familiar with Hadot, although the only volume of his in my library is his Plotinus.

I'm thinking of enrolling in this course next semester, IF I can bag a new contract to pay the fees (otherwise finance committee i.e. wife won't approve).

:namaste:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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